By Bohlander, Robert
The Exceptional Parent , Vol. 39, No. 8
Psychological well-being is the ultimate "quality of life" measure. The presence of a neurosensory disorder (NSD) in a child, such as ADD, ADHD, Asperger's syndrome, or autism, can rob the child of psychological well-being, or hamper the growth of well-being as the child develops. Fortunately, treatment of NSDs can remove obstacles to the experience of psychological well-being, benefiting not only the child, but the entire family system.
Why is psychological well-being the true index of the quality of life--the "common currency" of good mental health? Fundamentally, psychological well-being is the essence of that which makes our lives "worth living." There can be no experience of a good quality of life without the presence of psychological well-being. Professionals have at their disposal many psychological, behavioral, and medical treatments for NSDs. Without a subjective feeling by the child that life is "good," or "getting better," however, our treatment goals will not be fully realized.
The components of psychological well-being include the existence of positive emotions (e.g., joy, pleasure, happiness, hope), as well as the subjective experience of life as "good," "satisfying," and "fulfilling." In younger children, we often see psychological well-being expressed as their sense that they are capable of successfully understanding and predicting the outcomes of their own behavior, and making sense of the world to which they are increasingly exposed as they develop. Psychological well-being is reflected in their ability to engage in the demands of life while bolstered by an internal sense of self-efficacy, and to develop a realistic, positive self-esteem. Well-being in children manifests as the ability to laugh, have fun, feel safe, and feel connected with people who are important to the child.
Experiencing life with a sense of psychological well-being is often compromised by illness or injury, such as the occurrence of a NSD. Neurosensory disorders are dysfunctions in the collection, transmission, or neural processing and integration of sensory information. Functional impairments anywhere in the neural systems that accomplish these tasks will produce any of a number of physical, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. Neurosensory disorders include conditions ranging from ADD/ADHD and autism to migraines, fibromyalgia, and dizziness/vertigo. These symptom-based disorders can readily arise from impairments in neurosensory functioning. Neurosensory disorders can create problems such as misperception of the environment, poor balance and coordination, physical pain, lack of energy, mood and anxiety disorders, and cognitive impairments. Thus, NSD's undermine a child's sense of well-being, and thus impair quality of life.
Imagine a computer attempting to process input which is erroneous, contradictory, or too limited to permit adequate analysis. The most sophisticated computer will not be able to make sense of the input or solve problems effectively, even if its software is functioning normally. Imagine how frustrated the computer might "feel" about that outcome. Now imagine that the input is adequate and appropriate to the computer's processing needs. The result is efficient and accurate functioning, and the "feeling" of competence and mastery by the computer. A child with a NSD is like that computer with limited or contradictory input, yet with a brain that is doing its best to process the faulty information. Treating a NSD affords the child the opportunity to experience a sense of competence and mastery, enhancing psychological well-being.
How, specifically, do NSD's impair psychological well-being in children? Because of the symptoms created by a NSD, children can lack self-confidence at precisely the developmental periods when environmental mastery is a key component of life. Unreliable sensory input, or impaired neural processing of information, results in children being less "sure of themselves" in the academic environment, as well as other important venues. …